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Neurology behind Drinking in Teenagers

tive brain in a way that promotes the progression to addiction.’

In an experiment, published this year in the journal Neuroscience, Dr. Crews found that even a single high dose of alcohol temporarily prevented the creation of new nerve cells from progenitor stem cells in the forebrain that appear to be involved in brain development.

The damage was found to be far more serious in adolescent rats than in adult rats. It began at a level equivalent to two drinks in humans and increased steadily as the dosage was increased to the equivalent of 10 beers, when it stopped the production of almost all new nerve cells.

Two M.R.I. scan studies, one conducted by Susan Tapert, clinical psychologist at the University of California, San Diego have found that hard-drinking teenagers had significantly smaller hippocampi than their sober counterparts.

In addition Dr Tapert found that teenagers who drink heavily also show a difference in using their brains probably to make up for subtle neurological damage. A study using functional M.R.I. scans, published in 2004, found that alcohol-abusing teenagers who were given a spatial test showed more activation in the parietal regions of the brain, toward the back of the skull, than did non drinking teenagers.

The good news according to Dr Tapert is the fact that the brain is remarkably plastic and future studies may show that the teenage brain, while more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, is also more resilient.

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